Nellie Creek Trailhead


Range: San Juan Mountains
Coordinates: 38.06209, -107.42158
14ers: Uncompahgre Peak, Wetterhorn Peak
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Road Difficulty

Moderate 4WD, long wheel base vehicles not recommended. Good clearance required. 4   (0=Paved, 6=Very Difficult 4WD)
2WD dirt to 9,300' at the lower TH. 4WD to 11,400' at the upper TH.

Driving Directions

From Lake City, turn west onto Second street. Drive 0.1 mile and turn left onto Bluff Street which turns into the Henson Creek road/Alpine Loop Scenic Byway. Drive 5 miles to the sign for the Nellie Creek trail (#877), on the right. If you don't have a high-clearance 4WD vehicle, park on the Henson Creek road and start here. It's 4 miles up the rough Nellie Creek road to reach the trailhead. If your 4WD vehicle makes it through the rough section at the start of this road, you'll probably be able to make it to the trailhead. Cross Nellie Creek at 1.8 miles. At 2.3 miles, stay left at a junction. At 2.7 miles, cross the creek a second time. Grind up the remaining narrow road to reach the trailhead.

Winter Access

Usually closed a short distance up the Henson Creek road - many miles from the TH.
Status Updates 
Posted By: merrion13
Info: Trail is open! Drove up last night, took 50 minutes from the start of the 4WD road and the two creek crossings were about 8 inches at the deepest. Stock 2015 Grand Cherokee with all terrain tires made it no problem. This road was way easier than Lead King! Just air down the tires and take your time.
Posted By: illusion7il
Info: At 9pm last night the road was clearly signed as closed. Rolled by at noon today and it looks to be open. There is now just a sign that says heavy machinery ahead.
Posted By: Bob Kocher
Info: Just talked to the Gunnison FS office again and their current info (which was from yesterday) was Nellie Creek Rd is still closed. She didn’t have any other details.
Posted By: Bob Kocher
Info: Per the Gunnison FS office (970-641-0471), the Nellie Creek Rd is currently closed while they remove a loader that got stuck/flipped (she didn’t know all the details, but the operator was ok). She asked me to call back on Fri for an update.
Posted By: JQDivide
Info: REOPENED on Friday.

CURRENTLY CLOSED: Thursday, May 17
There is a fire in the area. CR 20 is open, but the road to the TH is not.

Hinsdale County website:

HC OEM on Facebook:
Posted By: briantony1
Info: Climbed Uncompahgre on Saturday and started just above the Henson Creek Road at a campground about .1 miles up Nellie Creek. There are several downed trees, and there is one larger tree across the road at about 5.5 feet height that you would need to fit under -around 1.25 miles in. It is possible to get to the 1st river crossing at 1.8 Miles with some careful driving. There are a couple of pull-out above the crossing. After that there are larger snow drift across the road which will need to melt out, and consistent snow starting around 3 miles in. Also, there are several rock slides across the road between miles 3-4 with some larger rocks looking close to coming down. There will be some work needed to get the road open by the forest service (or whoever maintains Nellie Creek Road).
Posted By: annamigl
Info: We didn’t run into any winter closures/closed gates and were able to drive up about 1.5 miles up the Nellie Creek road. On our way back down the road later that day, we saw fresh tracks of someone who had driven up oh about .5 miles past the creek crossing (with what looked to be some pretty good tread tires). Up higher though still needs some melting, and a good mudslide right before the meadow will probably need some good clean up before it’s good to go for the summer! Careful driving up too high though because the road got very muddy and soggy later in the day (seemed to be muddy even if there was no snow around) so consider how much the road will soften up this time of year the higher you drive.
Posted By: JtheChemE
Info: Road still clear to any clearance vehicle to the Unc TH. Gate closes on Hensen road a bit further, but well tracked by snowmobiles beyond that.
Posted By: RyGuy
Info: Ice blocks the road just past the turnoff from Henson Creek road. Much large ice flows higher up,the road. The first big one is located at 38.02858, -107.39768
Posted By: Wildernessjane
Info: Drove approximately two miles up Nellie Creek Road a couple of switchbacks past the creek crossing at a spur in the road. The road turned to ice for at least 50 yards and got steeper at this point.
Posted By: petersengraph
Info: I was only able to drive a few hundred yards up the Nellie Creek road in a lifted 4runner with off-road tires. Seems there has been some serious melting and re-freezing in the last few weeks that really made me nervous, not having a winch. A tough set of chains might have made it passable. I ditched the attempt and headed to Sunshine peak.
Posted By: marianne
Info: Iwas able to drive up the Nellie Creek road for 1.9 miles and cross a stream bed and parked my 4 runner there. After this the road headed up hill steeply (in the shade ) and it was snowy ( 2 inches) and icy . The road to this point was very easy to drive , small patched of snow , but still there was good traction . The stream is quite wide but shallow , and has small rocks and stones on the bottom of the streambed, no problem crossing this stream , approx 4. feet of shallow water. the Stream is still running , no ice. Walking in the road to the Th for 13158 (el paso creek trail, there was intermittent snow and dry road. I used my micro spikes occasionally.
Posted By: djacobson
Info: 4WD road unpassable about 2.2 miles after the turn at Nellie Creek TH sign. Layer of ice under the snow requires chains. Road had some dry spots. Downed tree ~0.1 miles before upper TH. Stream crossing wasn’t bad at all.
Posted By: bmcqueen
Posted By: Misi197
Info: Read "wags" trip report about getting his Outback 2.5 miles up the Nellie Creek road on 11/10 and decided to head that way. I had a very similar experience...the road is fine up until the 2.5 mile point where the snow really starts to pile up. Fortunately there is a nice turnoff at 2.5 miles where I pulled in and slept overnight. The creek was running high on my way back down around noon, but otherwise if you take it slow and steady, this is a very doable option until the next snowstorm. I’ve attached a photo from 2.6 miles to give a sense of how things crap out at that point.
Posted By: Flyingfish
Info: Snow makes the road impassable about a 1.25 miles below the upper trailhead. There is also a tree down across the road 1000ft below the upper trailhead.
Posted By: petersengraph
Info: Tried to drive to upper trailhead today and had to turn back a short ways after the stream crossing. There was tons of snow on a really steep section, and my lifted 4runner with duratrac tires just couldn’t get it up. Might have worked out with chains. So I had to slowly back down the hill and try not to slide off the cliff. Be careful out there!
Posted By: eichsttl
Info: The last 4 miles to the TH is almost all dry. There are a few wet potholes on the road. The two stream crossings are only running about 6" deep. This road is definitely rough and rocky. I drove a stock 4 door Jeep Wrangler. I had no problems but it took most of an hour to drive the 4 miles up and about 45 minutes to drive back down.
Posted By: shtinkypuppie
Info: Contrary to prior updates, this trail is "subaru-able". I took my stock 2016 Crosstrek up on 10/4 just to check it out. It’s definitely rough, and requires slow, deliberate wheel placement, but it’s doable. The first few hundred feet are the roughest, but probably the biggest challenge is the steep climb out of the first creek crossing with the big rock sticking out of it. Plan for at least an hour each way, take it real slow, and bring a full-sized spare (or two). I wouldn’t want to do it on a popular weekend, either, as much of the road is narrow, but there ARE passing spots at least every 0.1 miles.
Posted By: KristineL
Info: We drove to Nellie Creek on Friday, 9/1/17 from Denver using the directions on from Lake City - the directions were perfect and easy to follow. We have an 2001 Jeep Cherokee Sport (Stock model) and it handled the roads well - we took our time and the 4-5 miles took us about 45 minutes. Luckily, we didn’t cross any vehicles going coming down while we were going up - as it’s pretty narrow. On our way down, Saturday, we did cross a few vehicles which required one car to back up a few feet to navigate the other car around it.

The road is rough, but with good clearance, a vehicle should be fine. The creek crossing was fine and I’ve attached a photo of it. We camped at the last pull out camping spot near the main trailhead parking lot. The parking lot has plenty of room to camp, but not really defined spots. There’s only a few pull outs within about 0.5 miles of the trailhead/parking lot which are secluded - but they’re nice and in the trees.
Posted By: RJ_Greenhorn24
Info: Definitely a road for the experienced 4wd driver. Between the narrowness, drop offs, switchbacks, and boulders in the road I would certainly advise to TAKE YOUR TIME on this one! Everything was easy enough to get over by going slowly, the only pain seemed to be the people flying around corners on side-by-sides, and backing up to find a pull off when you encounter oncoming traffic. The TH itself has plenty of dispersed camping but not too many spots to park if the surrounding camp spots are full. Creek crossings were not bad at all, be sure to continue up at the switchbacks as there is a spot where it seems you should fork right, stay left! Also there is a camp spot to the right of the 1st creek crossing, if there is a vehicle parked there it looks like they are on the road (the road actually switchbacks left directly after the creek behind the bushes) -we sat almost 5 mins waiting for the truck to "move" to cross the creek before we noticed that was just a camp pull off (whoops!)
Side note: Someone had stated in a previous report that the initial 100 yards is the most difficult and everything past that is easier: this is rubbish! The entire 4 miles up requires your full attention
Posted By: wyyld
Info: Muddy in some spots. Two stream crossings that any high clearance 4wd vehicle can cross. TH was packed on a Sunday. Can’t imagine a Saturday. Lots of campsites on the road and near the TH.
Posted By: STIBungy
Info: Nellie Creek Rd is very muddy in certain parts due to the monsoon rain all week. There are a few sections near the top where some mud and rock have slid into the road but nothing blocked. Surprised my FX35 made it to the top. Had a little trouble with the 2nd creek crossing but a little maneuvering helped.
Posted By: LoneStar
Info: Gnarliest 4wd road I’ve ever taken my stock Sequoia 4wd on. 2 Takomas, an XTerra, a Jeep and a Ford F-250 Super Duty also at the top.
Posted By: jladderud
Info: As mentioned in the previous report, the 4WD road is clear. I wanted to add that longer wheel base vehicles (F-150, Suburban) were also observed at the upper TH.
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